Trees: Ecology & Evolution
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Instructor: Prof. Martin Lechowicz

Student comments on the professor and course:

"This course was an incredible learning experience and an eye-opener to the  world of plant and tree biology that is always made out to be so boring  compared to animal biology, but if it is taught right (like Lechowicz did)  then it's fascinating! The assignments were really useful and interesting to do. The course material is sophisticated (lots of literature/data review, theory re-analysis, looking at trade-offs) but exceptionally well presented,  so very interesting. I loved this course and would strongly recommend it to   other students with interests in ecology, environment, evolution, trees!"

"Excellent instructor, very enthusiastic about course material and amazingly willing to get to know you and help you whenever you asked.  He cares passionately about his work, his students, and his classes. He also is very familiar with how to work with students, what kind of questions to ask, what length assignments are reasonable, is very receptive to feedback, very flexible. I think he's one of the BEST professors I have had at McGill - and I say this in my senior year, after having many professors."

"Prof.Lechowicz is a great instructor. He really pulled together a lot of different material to assemble a course which is a great introduction to trees. His extensive knowledge on the subject was always apparent along with his enthusiasm."
  Course description

This 3-credit lecture course summarizes the main patterns of variation in the form and function of trees, how this variation arose in evolution and how it contributes to the present diversity of forest communities. 

The course is open to undergraduate students who have reasonable core-level background in organismal plant biology, ecology and evolution; knowledge of cell and molecular biology is not essential. Students with majors in Biology, Geography, and Environment are the most likely to have the necessary preparation, but others may also have the required preparation through formal or informal study. Consult the instructor if you are uncertain about your prerequisites.

The course is built around a series of lectures; there are short-answer and essay format midterm and final examinations. There are no labs, but if possible we will schedule a few one-day field excursions to local forests. Every student also will undertake a term paper involving a review and synthesis of literature that explores some aspect of plant function.

There is a graduate student analog to this course (BIOL 555), also a 3-credit course but running throughout the academic year. Very well prepared undergraduates can take BIOL 555 instead of BIOL 355 if they are comfortable with a more tutorial format and willing and able to take on a fairly major, literature-based research project.

Some specific topics include:

  • Evolutionary history of trees as a growth form
  • Spatial and temporal patterns in tree species diversity
  • The nature of contemporary forest communities
  • Adaptation and dispersal in the assembly of forest tree communities
  • Comparative ecology of tree function: growth, defense and reproduction
  • Foliar function and canopy architecture
  • Root systems
  • Seasonality and phenology of growth and reproduction. 
  • Reproductive biology of trees
  • Herbivory and disease 
  • Alternative designs for trees, and their efficacy in contrasting environments

Dr. Lechowicz Homepage | Undergraduate Studies | Biology | McGill

Webpage: Carole Verdone-Smith, Department of Biology